From, The Daily Star: BEIRUT: When Ethiopian Airlines flight ET409 plunged into the sea moments after taking off from Rafik Hariri International Airport on Jan. 25 last year, there was no shortage of theories on why the plane had crashed.
The Boeing 737-800’s fate was sealed, as was claimed variously at the time, by lightning strike, poor weather, mechanical failure, loss of power, pilot error or even an onboard explosion.
The doomed flight left Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport shortly after 2:20 a.m. local time, bound for the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, following a raging thunderstorm. Eyewitnesses interviewed on the morning of the crash suggested the plane had entered the sea in flames following a bright flash of light.
What followed was confusion.
Lebanese authorities were quick to rule out terrorism as a possible factor, although this has not silenced conspiracy theorists suggesting a bomb had been placed aboard the jet before take-off. Two days after the crash, Transportation and Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi suggested that the pilot had performed “a fast and strange turn” after take-off.
Media reports in the immediate aftermath claimed that the Boeing 737-800 had suffered a double lightning hit or had fallen from the sky after both engines stalled.
One report, by Reuters, quoted a source within the investigation as saying that the crash had occurred due to pilot error after the co-pilot had failed to successfully engage the plane’s autopilot in the minutes after takeoff.
In the days following the disaster, teams of aeronautical technicians, forensic specialists and transport accident experts flew to Beirut to begin assessing information retrieved from the crash site in the eastern Mediterranean, some 4 kilometers from the town of Naameh.
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